No one knows if it was Willy Brandt or Abraham Lincoln who said:
“THE BEST WAY TO PREDICT THE FUTURE IS TO CREATE IT.”
I would say:
“THE BEST WAY TO LOSE FEAR OF THE FUTURE IS TO COCREATE IT.”
To cocreate the future, we need to have an understanding of process: of patterns of process and of scale of process.
We use to talk about climate change as if it is something we can work on, in the same time frame, as if we, for example, change an institution’s organization or develop a product in a few years. But even if the process of climate change might follow the same or similar patterns as other processes, its scale is fundamentally different. Shifting the course of the global civilization takes dramatically more time. And many humans on the Earth have not even started addressing climate change; they are still in the process of getting a decent, healthy, safe and free life.
On the other hand, from the perspective of our global civilization’s evolution, what we experience now is gaining immense momentum, moving towards a climax, crisis, and most undoubtedly, deep transformation. This process has built up over the last decades and years, getting faster every day. And it gained momentum as we more and more understood our codependency and coevolution with the Earth as a whole.
For example, I have been growing up with a frightening future scenario: the image of the exponential growth curve. The notion that we push almost every resource of the Earth to its limits and far beyond, the notion that this exponential growth would never stop, was the basso continuo to my late childhood, early youth and early adulthood.
While starting to read Der kleine Tierfreund — a children’s magazine about nature and conservationism — and later on the Greenpeace Magazine: the exponential growth curve was always with me.
I knew as sure as anything: the Earth and her resources are limited, and humanity’s hunger for those resources was insatiable.
For aeons, the Earth had been our hunting ground: an endless space of natural abundance for us to devour. Plato was probably the first to reason that the Earth must be a ball and therefore limited. Columbus wanted to prove precisely that in 1492. Today we know for sure that the Earth is a ball in space we — at the moment — cannot escape.
The first image of the Earth from space was taken on 24 October 1946. Rocket scientists captured it from a German V2 rocket confiscated by the Americans at the end of WW2. While the V2 then was one of the most feared weapons, scientists removed the warheads and equipped the rockets with scientific instruments.
The picture was a small blurry black and white section of the Earth. But still: those who saw it felt that something new was emerging, that humanity was beginning to enter a new phase, the space age, the age of sputnik and apollo.
After two world wars and after the detonation of the first nuclear bombs, the idea that we are rather a disease than a blessing for the Earth was not farfetched. The hope that by modernity, technology and reason, we could somehow prove this image to be wrong was tempting.
In the aftermath of World War II, two ideologies took on the battle to prove to be the better architect of society: individual freedom, consumerism and capitalism was the creed on the one hand side and collective solidarity and planned economy on the other side. Both sides promised a utopian future. Both failed in one way or the other. Just think about it: two years after this first picture of Earth was taken, in 1948, my grandfathers were prisoners of war, my grandmothers waiting for them at home. My mother and father weren’t yet born. But scientific progress was already moving at an ever-faster pace.
In 1960 pictures of the Earth were taken from the first meteorological satellite. With these images, a new era of meteorology was suddenly possible. With this, it became possible to observe the weather patterns of the planet from above. With the advancement of the first computers, it was suddenly possible to work on complex climate models and weather forecasts. Mind you; this was only 60 years ago! In the middle of the cold war!
Two years later, Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring on pesticides in agriculture and singing birds’ extinction. This book sparked a new environmental awareness: While we started to see our planet from above as the finite space it was, we also began to notice that we were destroying the fundaments of our survival and that of the rest of creation possibly, too. And now we had the means to understand what was happening scientifically and to project possible future scenarios.
But only by the 1970s, it was possible to follow large weather patterns on satellite images on a daily basis. It became clear that those patterns were global. They did not care for national boundaries or political ideologies.
Soon, the first colour pictures of the Earth were shot. But it took some time, until 1972, that the last Apollo mission took the most important shot of the Earth. The Blue Marble became the iconographic image of the whole environmental movement and was depicted in many publications. It was, probably not by coincidence, that the Club of Rome published its famous report “The Limits to Growth” in the same year. There was no denying the fact anymore, that our ways of life: the consumerist capitalist western lifestyle and the exploitative communist lifestyle, were failing us massively to save our global community of man and nature.
Many of you were already born at that time. I had to wait for another four years before I started to walk on the face of this planet, though.
Then, in 1985, we found out about the ozone hole. Again, a sign of both our negative impact on global ecosystems and our ability to understand global processes, e.g. climate interactions. The international community acted fast on this finding. Today this threat is not entirely over. Actually, it gives new causes for concern. Still: the fast international reaction was a success story.
The problem, though, was by far not as complex as climate change in general.
In 1986 we were confronted with the nuclear catastrophe of Chernobyl.
1987 the United Nations published the Brundtland Report Our Common Future. From this time onwards, the concept of sustainability was set on the political agenda, never to leave again.
By the way: in 1990, before turning off the camera to save energy, Voyager 1 takes a photo of the Earth from 3.7 billion miles away. There is no other picture from that far away. The Earth is nothing but a tiny small pale dot in the vastness of space. An image which makes me cry: it is so lonely, so fragile!
1995 Paul Crutzen was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for understanding the ozone layer. At that time, I graduated from school. The same guy coined the term Anthropocene in the year 2000. A term that stood for the notion that humanity had become the most potent Earth changing force.
And now we are in 2020. We can take ultrahigh-resolution pictures any second from almost any angel of the Earth. We get fast internet via satellites. Every one of us has chips in our pockets with a processing power thousandfold as high as the computers in 1960. We are in the middle of a pandemic, we see a rise in populism, we have polluted our soils, the oceans, and most of all: we can already see the first effects of global climate change. Forests are burning in California, the Amazon and Siberia. We measure the hottest and driest summers.
So, where does all of this lead us to? Are we going to fail, or are we just in a difficult phase of transition from one developmental stage to another?
Are we a disease reaching its peak spread, or are we instead a teenage civilization approaching adolescence? Are we the cause and the solution in a scheme we do not understand?
Let’s take a deep breath for a moment after this tour de force through history and our growing image and understanding of the Earth.
There is a lot of evidence that we screw everything up, no doubt. There is also a lot of evidence that we are doing exceptionally well. The later voice is heard less, though, which doesn’t mean that it is not true. I want us to become aware of the scale, the dynamics and the speed of the process we are in at this moment. Just ponder for a moment how your life has changed over the last decades.
I want to invite you to appreciate the incredible developmental speed on an intergenerational level: to the worse and the better. There is no doubt that we have made immense progress in the last 100 years in overcoming those ills we defined as our biggest threats. Think about it: hunger, illness, poverty, mobility, education and most of all: peace! On an international level and on a level of our direct neighbourhoods: the world has never been more peaceful than today. We tend to forget the achievements we have already accomplished.
The process we talk about is maybe 80 years old. Even going back to the early beginnings of industrialization with the steam engine’s invention in 1769, we look at about 250 years! Can any of you even start to imagine what the world will look like in 20, 40, 60 or 100 years? Or 250 years from now?
Today we meet here at the former Politbuero, the offices of the first central committee of the German Democratic Republic for ironic reasons — and for reasons of making a statement in our own narrative. We know about the need to make sense of history and process in order to cocreate the future. We know that we have to create meaning, new ideas and new ways to look at our world, our planet, the Earth. We meet here because we at the Cocreation Foundation also know of the deep codes of political ideologies and what they can do to societies and individuals for the better and the worse. We also know that it is extremely hard to face and change these codes. Still, we know that we have to face them none the less and that we have to create new narratives and meanings amid collective trauma, hurt and fear of the future.
Communism failed, Neoliberalism is losing its grip on having the world’s hegemonic interpretation as we speak. But what is to come? And what will be the role of Cocreation Foundation?
Should we create just the next new big narrative, the new ideology, the new total world view? Should we design Utopia and then take every measure to force it upon this Earth?
Of course: we will not! We cannot, and we will not for obvious reasons: the time of big totalitarian ideologies and narratives is over. We have learned this lesson from our collective history, especially in a city like Berlin! But also, the time of cynicism and destructive critique is over. We know that we have to develop and progress somehow, which gives us hope and joy rather than despair and depression.
Yet, if both ways are no option any more: what are we to do? How can we survive and engage on and with this planet? How can we provide ourselves with meaningful stories, positive directions and empowering ideas that we all so desperately need?
We have to learn that in cocreation processes, Utopia is always in the making, always negotiable and always a way of expressing our best ideas and innovations at the moment. We have to learn to engage in our processes, move forward with them, face our fears, and support each other while doing so.
A major source of fear is the feeling of moving into the unknown. Fear holds us back when we stand in front of new challenges we cannot avoid. Fear is a feeling that takes hold of us when we shy away from unfolding our potential.
The truth is: we cannot know how all of this will end. But we are 7.8 billion consciousness processors on this Earth, and we will have to start facing the challenges of our global civilization. We will have to start cocreating the future we want to live in. After all, cocreation is about making meaning without any solid ground, in constant process and in the light of the diversity of all viewpoints and angels to reality and experiences.
A participatory, sustainable, generative future is only likely to emerge through cocreation. And we will not be able to predict it, but we can be open and curious about it.
Cocreating the future is the best remedy against our collective fear of deep transformation. Instead, it will unlock our courage.
Here are three things we can start right now:
- we can start to think about the governance systems the best possible future needs, and we can begin to design, prototype, test, and implement them now.
- We can start to face our own personal and transpersonal developmental issues and start growing into our potential to become the beings we are meant to be. We can unlock all those great features which are part of our design: love, passion, empathy, creativity.
- We can start to engage in humble, joyful, open processes of cocreation with our human and non-human kin as a global democratic ecociety.
Today when we look at the Earth from above, what do we see? What do you see? A cold planet inhabited by strange creatures changing the face of the Earth?
Let me share with you what I see, and maybe you want to share with me your inner pictures, too:
I see an organism, Gaia, a symbiotic being, comprised of a myriad of interacting entities, participateurs, streams of energy, information, rhythms and processes. A breathing and pulsing being, constantly developing and transforming. A goddess? Yes! A cyborg? For sure! A supreme complex being! The most beautiful experiment and wonder in the vastness of the universe we know! And the best part is: we are already an integral part of that being: you, me, we, us! I think it is breath-taking to think that we are Gaia in aspects called Roman, Sonja, Yantin, Alistair, Karde, the Cocreation Foundation.
We celebrate the inauguration of the Cocreation Foundation today. It is a foundation whose goal is to foster and promote a positive, nondual attitude to cocreate our future in an open emergent process. We do not have to fear this; we can eagerly look forward to it.
Please raise your glasses with me for the Cocreation Foundation!